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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 100

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 100.—227.  Petilianus said:  "But we who are poor in spirit 2269 are not apprehensive for our wealth, but rather feel a dread of wealth.  We, ‘as having nothing, and yet possessing all things,’ 2270 look on our soul as our wealth, and by our punishments and blood purchase to ourselves the everlasting riches of heaven.  So again the same Lord says, ‘Whosoever shall lose his substance, shall find it again an hundred fold.’"

228.  Augustin answered:  It is not beside the purpose to inquire into the true meaning of this passage also.  For where my purpose is not interfered with by any mistake which you make, or any false impression which you convey in quoting from the Scriptures, I do not concern myself about the matter.  It is not then written, "Whosoever shall lose his substance," but "Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake."  2271   And the passage about substance is not, "Whosoever shall lose," but "Every one that hath forsaken;" 2272 and that not only with reference to substance of money, but many other things besides.  But you meanwhile have not lost your substance; but whether you have forsaken it, in that you so boast of poverty, I cannot say.  And if by any chance my colleague Fortunatus may know this, being in the same city with you, he never told me, because I had never asked him.  However, even if you had done this, you have yet yourself quoted the testimony of the apostle against yourself in this very epistle which you have written:  "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." 2273   For if you had charity, you would not bring charges against the whole world, which knows nothing of you, and of which you know no more,—no, not even such charges as are founded on the proved offenses of the Africans.  If you had charity, you would not picture to yourself a false unity in your calumnies, but you would learn to recognize the unity that is most clearly set forth in the words of the Lord:  "even in the whole earth." 2274   But if you did not do this, why do you boast as though you had done it?  Are you really so filled with fear of riches, that, having nothing, you possess all things?  Tell that to your colleague Crispinus, who lately bought a farm near our city of Hippo, that he might there plunge men into the lowest abyss. 2275   Whence I too know this all too well.  You perhaps are not aware of it, and therefore shout out in security, "We stand in fear of riches."  And hence I am surprised that that cry of yours has been allowed to pass Crispinus, so as to reach us.  For between Constantina, where you are, and Hippo, where I am, lies Calama, where he is, nearer indeed to our side, but still between us.  I wonder, therefore, how it was that he did not first intercept this cry, and strike it back so that it should not reach to our ears; and that he did not, in opposition to you, recite in much more copious phrase a eulogy on riches.  For he not only stands in no fear of riches, but he actually loves them.  And certainly, before you utter anything about the rest, you should rehearse such views to him.  If he makes no corrections, then we have our answer ready.  But for yourself, if it be true that you are poor, you have with you my brother Fortunatus.  You will be more likely with such sentiments to please him, who is my colleague, than Crispinus, who is your own.



Matt. v. 3.


2 Cor. vi. 10.


Matt. xvi. 25.


Matt. xix. 29.


1 Cor. xiii. 3.


Acts i. 8.


See above, c. 84.

Next: Chapter 101

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